3 Tips on Managing a Large Class
This article will explain how varying class grouping, visual aids, and student-to-student interaction can help manage a large class.
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This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Natasha A. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Teaching English to a large class can seem like a daunting task, because the students may have different levels of English learning at the beginning of the class, and will likely each learn at their own pace. Unlike tutoring one-on-one, in a large class, the teacher does not have the benefit of being able to listen closely and identify personalized issues for each student. What one student may do well, another might be struggling with, and without being able to listen individually to each student every class, it might be difficult to gauge what individual problems might arise. Another issue that might arise when teaching a large class is keeping every student engaged -- especially with all-class discussions where only a few students may get the opportunity to speak, and also with keeping students from speaking to each other in their native language. This last issue is not a problem in heterogeneous classes where the students may have a variety of native languages, however in a homogenous class where all the students speak the same language, keeping them engaged enough to only speak English may pose a problem.
One way to handle a large class is to vary the class grouping: that is, do some activities together as a class, some in small groups, some in pairs, and some individually. Using different class arrangements during the same lesson will provide much-needed variety so that the students do not get bored. Also, some students function better in small groups, while introverted students probably prefer to work individually. This way, each student can participate in an activity that plays to their strengths. Something to be careful of here is too much movement and regrouping around the classroom so that it takes too much time and distracts from the lesson. One way to address this issue is to arrange the classroom based on the lesson needs at the start of the class so that groups are already formed when the time comes for a group or pair work.
2. Visual Aids
Using visual aids is another way of keeping students engaged and on-task. For example utilizing the board in order to write out an agenda at the beginning of class, so that students can keep track of what activities/assignments they need to complete before the end of class. Board work can also be helpful because it illustrates concepts that students may not retain just by hearing them, and allows students to copy down in their notes important parts of the lesson, such as vocabulary and grammar rules. Board work can also be used to engage individual students as well as the whole class, for example putting up gap-fill exercises on the board for all students to try, and then calling on specific students to demonstrate the correct answers for the class.
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3. Student-to-student interaction
An important aspect of managing a large class is increasing student-to-student interaction. Because there is only one teacher in a large class, student-to-teacher interactions may be limited. However, students can practice their fluency and ask questions about new concepts with each other, discovering the language together. Student-to-student interaction is a critical part of the learning process because it gives students the ability to explore language without worrying about correction or “being right” in front of a teacher. Pairing stronger students together with weaker students have also proved a successful way of encouraging student-to-student collaboration, therefore building rapport within the classroom.
Students learn at different paces and therefore having extra material and exercises available for students who may finish quicker than their peers can keep these students continually engaged, even once they have finished the assignment. Have extra crosswords, word searches, or other worksheet activities to distribute to students who may finish sooner.
Even within a large classroom, it is important for each student to feel seen by the teacher. Name game activities at the beginning of class (especially at the start of the school year) can help teachers remember the name of each student. Also, having students fill out pre-course questionnaires about their likes, dislikes, and goals can help teachers better identify students and also gauge initial levels of language proficiency across the classroom.
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In conclusion, there are many strategies teachers can use in order to make a large class feel more personable and manageable. Grouping students into pairs and small groups can be an easy way to engage all students in each activity, while also letting the teacher roam around the classroom to monitor individual progress. Varying group sizes and activities (which is especially doable in an ESA lesson plan) can appeal to different student’s learning advantages so that there are at least a few activities each class that appeals to each student’s strengths.
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